Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Teachers, college students lead a Second Life
According to a recent article in USA Today, "More than 300 universities, including Harvard and Duke, use Second Life as an educational tool, says Claudia L'Amoreaux of Linden Labs. Some educators conduct entire distance-learning courses there; others supplement classes." I believe BGSU is one of those 300. Second Life is a 3D virtual world created by Linden Labs. It's kind of like putting a 3D skin on the internet. Instead of visiting the Nissan website with text, images, audio, and video, I could go to their virtual headquarters in a 3D world (called Second Life) and see their latest models and talk to their salesmen avatars. I have mixed feelings about using Second Life for online education. Online education is great because it is flexible, accessible, and works into our lifestyle. Think about online banking. When you want to make an online banking transaction, would you rather enter the Bank's Virtual world, wait in a virtual line, and talk to a virtual teller or just log in with your password and make your transaction? Like any technology, it can be applied effectively or ineffectively to the learning landscape. Before diving into Second Life, an instructor should ask what about Second Life will enhance this course? I've always believed that the internet's greatest strength is found not in its interface but in it's capacity for speeding up communication, access to information, and networking. For example, in several minutes, I can check over 50 sources that are being updated by the minute around a single topic using RSS Feeds, Google Alerts, and Social Bookmarking, or I could jump into Second Life for an hour, fly around, and try to clothe my naked avatar. I'm not anti-Second Life, I'm just saying flying around a 3D world could be a huge waste of time or it could be captivating for the students depending on what, where, and why they are flying. My main point is that Instructors just need to think about the benefits of using Second Life as it relates to their subject area and their learning objectives. What are some subjects that would benefit from a 3D world?